Meaning of Locus Standi in Law
The two latin words “locus Standi” can be translated to mean ” place of Standing”. In law, locus Standi as noted by uslegal connotes the legal capacity of a person to institute actions in a court of law. It is used interchangeably with the term “Standing” or “title to sue”
The expression encompasses the legal capacity to institute , initiate or commence an action in a competent court of law or tribunal without hindrance from any person or body whatsoever including the provisions of the law. See the case of C.B.N V OKEFE(2016) 4 NWLR (PT. 1502) P.347
Locus Standi asks such questions as: Who suppose to sue in this case? Are the parties in court the right persons to sue? Do they have right to sue in law?
This is because, it is the legal right of a party to an action to be heard in a litigation before a court of law or tribunal, that determine whether that person is the right person to sue.
Hence, if there is a breach of legal right, it is the person whose right has been violated that can sue and not another person whose right has not been violated.
THE ESSESNCE OF RULE ON LOCUS STANDI.
It is a rule of law that only parties who has locus Standi can initiate an action. That is, only parties who has legal interest or right to protect that can sue in law. In other words, locus Standi determines the issue of parties in a civil action.
This rule forecloses parties who have no right to protect from turning the court and judicial process into an instrument for promoting frivolous pursuits.
The court has noted that the rule on locus Standi was developed to protect the court from being used as a playground by professional litigants or meddlesome interlopers, busy bodies who really bhave no stake or interest in the subject matter of litigation.
In the case of Adesina v Air France(2022) 8 NWLR. (Pt.1833). P.530, the court emphasized the need for proper parties to be before the court thus:
“Only proper parties can invoke the jurisdiction of Court.So, for an action to succeed, the parties to it must be shown to be the proper parties to whom rights and obligations arising from the cause of action is vested”.
TEST FOR DETERMINING LOCUS STANDI TO SUE IN AN ACTION
There are two tests to determine whether someone has locus to sue in law or not:
a. The action must be justifiable
b. There must be a dispute between the parties
To have locus Standi, the plaintiff statement of claim must disclose sufficient legal interest and show how the interest arose in the subject matter of action. See the case of P.M. Ltd v the “M.V. dancing Sister” (2012) 4 NWLR. p. 169(SC).
The plaintiff pleadings must disclose reasonable cause of action.The cause of action gives rise to locus Standi.
To have locus , there must be sufficient interest. The only way to measure what amount to sufficient interest is to determine whether the person ought to be a party in the case and whether the party has suffered any injury or will suffer any hardship save for the litigation or after the litigation. See the case of Inakoju v Adeleke(2007) 4 NWLR. (PT.1025) 423.
TYPE OF PERSON THAT HAS LOCUS TO INSTITUTE ACTION IN COURT
For a party to maintain an action in law, the party must be:
a Necessary party
d Nominal party.
Where the party who instituted action does not fall under any of this category, the suit will fail as the parson shall be deemed to have no right.
THE EFFECT OF LOCUS STANDI ON JURISDICTION OF COURT
Locus Standi goes to the jurisdiction of court. Where a party lacks the capacity to sue, he cannot maintain an action in court, where he does, the court cannot proceed to adjudicate the matter. See the case of CBN v Okefe (2016) 4 NWLR PT.1502 P.348 see also Ajayi v Adebeyi(2012) 11 NWLR (PT.1310)137
Where the court proceed to hear the matter, the trial no matter how well conducted, becomes an exercise in futility. See MC In Ltd v Duncan (2016) 4 NWLR (PT.1501) 198
The concept of locus Standi is predicated on the assumptions that no court is obliged to provide a remedy for a claim in which the applicant has a remote, hypothetical or no interest. Where a party has failed to show in his pleadings, that he has rights to protect, the proper order to make is strike out. See Okwu v Umeh(2016) 4 NWLR pt 1501 p 126.
In other words, there is no need to determine the case on the merit where a party lacks the capacity to sue.
The issue of locus Standi does not go to justiciability of a suit. It goes to the competence of a party to sue. That is whether the party suing has legal interest including obligation,that has been breached or not.
EXCEPTION TO THE RULE ON LOCUS STANDI.
There are moment when someone can maintain an action in law on behalf of another person. Therefore, where the law permits such, issue of locus Standi will not stand.
Example, under the Fundamental Right Enforcement procedure Rules 2009, any person can maintain an action in court for himself or on behalf of another person. See Order of the Fundamental Right Enforcement procedure Rules 2009
The category of applicant under the Rule include:
a.Anyone acting in his own interest
b.Anyone acting on behalf of another person
c.Anyone acting as a member of a group or class of person
d.Anyone acting in the public interest.
e. Association acting in the interest of its members or other individual or groups.
REPRESENTATIVE ACTION OR SUIT.
In this type of suit, persons who have common interest institute action on behalf of every other persons with similar interests.
This applies mostly to families and communities where representatives of family and communities elects to sue on behalf of the other members.
In this regards, the judgement of court or any order made by court binds both those whose names appeared on the court process and every other persons deriving interest or title(agents and privies) from them.
In representative suit, any of the member of that community or family or class of persons has locus Standi to institute the action on behalf of the other persons in that class.